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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Is the Future of Shoreline's Trees?

Celebrating Sixth Month - Of Paramount Importance Blog!

Shoreline is a place with an image based on trees and green spaces. 
But many of our trees are now at risk.

photo credit - Ken Winnuck
This tree is one of two large trees left at the "city gateway"
at 15th NE. It now conceals an ugly cell tower, but was slated to be removed because of conflicts with the sidewalks and a driveway. Two other huge London Plane Trees were removed from this intersection in May to the shock of many residents.

There are several projects going on in Shoreline that will impact our signature element - trees. Our City logo contains trees and our City "Vision" emphasizes trees as important.

Yet the City seems to have a conflicted value system now, especially when it comes to street trees.
Photo credit -Vicki Westberg
Three "signature trees" were cut at Shoreline's 15th Ave "gateway" last month.

Many of our street trees are just becoming mature now, since many of them were planted during the "Forward Thrust" era in the 1960's and 70's. The infrastructure here, sidewalks, drainage, street ROW (Right of Ways), were all built back in the 50's and 60's (and even earlier). The streets were mostly planned and built earlier.

So we have an older network built for automobiles, and pedestrian elements were kind of an after thought.

The street trees were planted also without much forethought. So many of those trees have grown up, and through no fault of their own are intruding into the sidewalks.
Photo credit - Vicki Westberg
Located just N of Crest Cinema. Could this sidewalk be "looped around" into adjacent lot.
Can we work with neighbors to save some street trees?

So the question that City staff and the people who care about the trees face is, how to handle the tree roots vs sidewalks conflicts? How is the value of these trees to our self image as a community and the ecological benefits the trees provide, balanced with the conflicts created with sidewalks and other infrastucture?

Now at least 35 large street trees are targetted by city staff for removal in Ridgecrest neighborhood.
Many of us a wondering where this will end and have many questions.  After the 15th NE incident, staff posted the 35 trees to be cut with signs to warn neighbors. That's a good step, but what is the process for
"alternatives analysis"? How can the people affected engage in the process?

Photo credit - Vicki Westberg

Some key questions for the City and Community to consider:

• If trees are in our City Vision, why don't we have a Tree Commission or Urban Forestry Board?
We have many other boards and Commissions to give citizen oversight to City functions such as, Planning Commission, Parks Board, Human Services, Economic Development, et, etc. But no advisory boards in the Public Works area. If we want to be a Tree City, USA (Arbor Day Foundation), we need a Tree Board. (LFP has an Environmental Quality Commission)

• Aren't our trees (public and private) a key element of our character as a community?

• What is the criteria being used to judge these trees and their worthiness? How was that criteria arrived at?

• What possible alternatives are examined as to the tree's worthiness? Can there be other sidewalk treatments that could save the tree? Can you work with the neighbor to "loop around" the tree?
Is there an arborist helping the City do the analysis?

• What is the "value" of each tree? Monetarily, economically, environmentally, aesthetically, health wise?

• How does the Street and Public Trees planning fit in with the upcoming Tree Ordinance proposal coming before the Planning Commission? Aren't the Public Trees an intrinsic part of our overall tree canopy?

• How can citizens who care about the quality of life here engage on these issues? Can the City Council establish a process for a Tree Plan for our City?

These are questions that are in many citizens minds as we face a future with all of our old trees disappearing.  How can we save them? Perhaps some have to go, but ALL OF THEM?


  1. Janet,
    In your REACTIONS: I think that you should have a box to check that says "sad" or "disheartening"

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I agree, but the existing choices are the ones available in the Blogger format. Wish I were more of a tech wiz, but am just a humble commentator and artist.

    Thanks for the idea though and comment!

  3. There are answers, or at least clues, about many of these questions to be found in the 2003 Urban Forest Management Plan the City contracted. I encourage everyone to read it by going to -

    then scroll down the page to "Popular Links"; it's the last item in the list. While it is a large document, the text is only about 20 pages and very informative.

    Our trees are a big investment, whether they are public or private property and we should think twice before shredding them. We wouldn't do that to stock certificate, why do we so casually remove trees when they are one of the few taxpayer investments which actually increase in value over time?

    I believe the solution to keeping our reputation of a City among the Trees requires a unified plan that includes ALL the trees in the city to provide both canopy and stormwater management benefits for taxpayers.

    I, for one,would like to see the recommendations made seven long years ago given more serious consideration.

  4. Janet,

    Thanks for the thoughtful article on our Street Trees and the City's plans to cut many of them down.

    My question is this: "What happens next?"

    Many of us are holding our breath and expecting the chain saws to show up at any moment.

    Is there a moratorium on cutting until we get more citizen feedback? Trees are about to be cut. What can we do right now to get involved directly with the city so that we have a considered influence on the actions?

    Thanks again for your great blog!
    Ken Winnick
    Shoreline, WA

  5. A plan needs to continue to come together. There are many pieces coming in to place. Let's talk soon!

    Stay alert.